As winter approaches, get ready for winter duvets, cosy jumpers, hot chocolates, and… chilly toes? If you’ve ever had itchy red patches on your toes after a cold walk by the River Cam, you’ve probably experienced chilblains. Let’s talk about what chilblains are and how to keep them at bay.

What are Chilblains?

Chilblains are small, itchy, reddish-purple bumps or patches that can develop on your fingers or toes after being out in the cold. When the skin is cold and tiny blood vessels get narrower. Exposure to heat then warms them up too quickly, and the blood vessels widen. If you heat up too quickly, the vessels expand too quickly, which can cause blood to leak into the surrounding tissue, causing swelling, itchiness, and purple patches. Chilblains can be incredibly painful, so they are best avoided.

How to Prevent Chilblains

Dress Smart: Cosy socks? Check! Warm boots? Double-check! Wear warm, thin layers around your body to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Consider wearing socks in bed if your feet feel cold in the night.
Stay Dry: Make sure your shoes are water resistant.
• Moisturise: Prevent skin cracking by moisturising your feet regularly.
Move Your Toes: Wiggle your toes to keep the blood flowing when you are out and about on a cold day.
Warm-Up Slowly: Back from the cold? Don’t rush to the heater. Let your feet warm up on their own.
Visit Your Pharmacist: Preventative treatments such as Akilwinter are available in pharmacies. Using such treatments in the morning in the lead up to colder winter months can help prevent chilblains.
Stay hydrated: Warm drinks recommended!

Already Got Chilblains? Here’s What to Do and What NOT to Do:

DO NOT Warm Up to Much: Put your feet or hands on a radiator or under warm water because warming cold skin too quickly can cause swelling and pain due to blood vessels to enlarging too quickly.
DO Get Cosy: Keep your feet cosy e.g. thick socks or slippers.
DO NOT Smoke or Drink Caffeine: Nicotine and caffeine can restrict your blood vessels further.
DO NOT Scratch: Even if they itch, try not to scratch. It’ll only make things worse.
DO Exercise: Gently exercising will improve circulation to your feet.
DO take Paracetamol or Ibuprofen: to ease the pain.
DO use Lotions and Potions: Calamine lotion or witch hazel can help with itching.
• DO See a Podiatrist: If you are concerned about chilblains, consider seeing a podiatrist. Cutting Edge Podiatry in Cambridge are available to help you with personalised advice and professional care for all your foot health needs.

Advice for Diabetics

If you are diabetic, it is recommended that you check your feet regularly as you may not be able to feel your feet, so you may have infected chilblains without realising it.